Saturday, January 26, 2002

Desire to help drives post-riot police class

Recruits ready to work

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Graduates of Cincinnati's first police recruit class since the April riots — who will start working the streets on Sunday — say the civil unrest never gave them a moment's hesitation.

        Their friends, wives and family members had a different reaction.

[photo] Carrie Heuser (right) salutes with the 17 other members of the 91st Cincinnati Police Recruit Class during the singing of the national anthem at graduation ceremonies Friday at the Masonic Temple downtown.
(Glenn Hartong photos)
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        “People asked, "Are you sure? Are you sure?'” Tina Coman said after her husband, Willie, was sworn to duty Friday. “I was one of the ones who said, "Are you sure?'”

        But her husband never wavered in his response or commitment.

        “He does not want to be part of the problem,” Ms. Coman said, beaming in pride as her husband plunked his white hat on their 5-year-old daughter's head. “We have to believe in making a difference... So he's going to start, and we're going to pray.”

        The 18 members of the department's 91st recruit class, which graduated in a ceremony Friday at the downtown Masonic Temple, will join the 1,020-member force as patrol officers assigned to work with training officers in the city's five police districts.

        Beth Harper, whose husband Michael was the graduating class valedictorian, said she was nervous about moving to Cincinnati from Akron after the riots.

        “It didn't bother him, but it did me,” she said. “Any wife would be.”

        But Ms. Harper said her nervousness was soon quelled both by her husband's resolve and by the training he received.

        “I was surprised by how intense it was, academically as well as hands on. It was a lot more intense than I thought,” she said, holding Michael's hand. “I'm happy for him.”

[photo] Cincinnati Police Recruit Class graduate Willie Coman holds his daughter, 5-year-old Moriah.
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        Members of the recruit class say the riots, the summer of violence and the federal investigation of the department have only helped underscore how important their job is.

        “We are servants of the people,” Officer Darrell Beavers said. ""If I can change the opinion of one person at a time ... then the perception will change.”

        A former outside linebacker with the Philadelphia Eagles, Mr. Beavers will start patrolling Sunday in District 4, which includes neighborhoods hit by rioting, such as Avondale and Walnut Hills.

        “That didn't stop me at all,” he said. “My goal is to be the best police officer I can.”

        He credited the department's 23-week recruit training, which he said was tougher than any football training camp, as a solid preparation for the streets.

        Mayor Charlie Luken pledged to graduates Friday that city officials would, from now on, give them the benefit of the doubt.

        “It's an impossible burden we put on you each and every day,” Mr. Luken said in a mostly somber keynote address. “It is unfair to ask you to do the things we ask you.”

        The mayor promised better relations among police officers, the police union and city council.

        “It's kind of fashionable these days to run down the city,” he said, telling officers that he understands the untenable position officers are sometimes put in. “Try making a mistake and see how many TV stations and newspapers (make stories).”

        Mentioning the names of officers killed in the line of duty, Mr. Luken said the recruits have joined a brotherhood and sisterhood of heroes.

        “My hope is that people in Cincinnati won't forget,” he said.

        The graduating class started with 28 recruits, but six dropped out and four were called to active military duty in the war against terrorism sparked by the Sept. 11 attacks.

        Three of those called to service have since been released from duty and attended Friday's ceremony. They were given an ovation and said they will be joining the department's 92nd recruit class.

        Graduate Nedra Ward, who lives in Avondale, said this is her chance to give something back to the city.

        “I believe the department is changing a lot,” she said between hugs and salutations from family members. “I asked how can I help my community, and that's what I am going to do.”

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